Nigerian-Cameroonian Photographer Flo Ngala's Stunning Self-Portraits in Spring Fashion
“I’ve learned how to shoot other people by taking pictures of myself.”
Top and skirt by Rodarte. Photograph by Flo Ngala.
“I was 14 when I picked up photography,” says Harlem-born artist Florence Ngala, “and a big part of the process of understanding how to use the camera—and discovering what I liked most about the medium—was making self-portraits.”
Ngala’s early shots also capture what she calls “multiple me’s”; layered fusions of differing expressions and poses. One shows her sprawled across the wood floor of her childhood home, evoking the impact of time on self-image. The 22-year-old artist describes this excavation of memory in performative terms: “I became a model in my own right for the sake of self-expression.”
Ngala’s work finds a place in a lineage of black self-portraiture that runs from Cameroonian Samuel Fosso’s playful style-shifting to the conversations around personal and cultural politics spearheaded by artists like Genevieve Gaignard, Mohau Modisakeng, and Zanele Muholi.
Even as she works to establish her voice, Ngala’s practice has expanded to incorporate video and commercial work; recently, she shot Cardi B in performance and made intimate, behind-the-scenes portraits of Gucci Mane. “I’ve learned how to shoot other people by taking pictures of myself,” reflects the artist, who continues to turn her lens inward. “I know myself more thanks to self-portraiture.”
In a new series shot for GARAGE on the roof of the five-story walk-up in which the Harlemite has lived most of her life, Ngala digs deep into her West African heritage. The images also investigate conceptions of form, beauty, and what it means to fashion the black female body. In one, she stands on the roof’s red-cement ledge dressed in a black Proenza Schouler top and a black-and-red Balmain skirt, the city as her backdrop. It’s an image of poise but also of a young artist, becoming.
A version of this story first appeared in GARAGE No. 14, available to buy here.